BETHANY, W.V. – The Ursinus College football team knocked Bethany to the mat and never let the Bison back up in Saturday's season opener, scoring touchdowns on the first two possessions on the way to a convincing 34-13 road win.
Junior quarterback Thomas Garlick threw four touchdown passes in the first half – three to freshman Ryan Loughlin – as the Bears racked up 485 yards of offense in dominating Bethany for the second year in a row.
Junior Marcus Weathers had two sacks for a defense that was just as good, limiting the Green and White to 263 yards of offense and posting 12 tackles for loss.
The Bears could hardly have dreamed of a better start to the new season, zooming out to a 14-0 lead before the game was even seven minutes old. Their first drive started on the Bison 36-yard line after junior Jacob McCain's 32-yard return was supplemented by a personal foul, and five plays later Garlick found Loughlin in the end zone for the first touchdown of 2018.
After forcing a Bethany punt, Garlick hooked up with Loughlin again, this time for a 62-yard bomb that had Ursinus off and running with a two-score head start.
Junior Brett Capobianco's five-yard tackle for loss ended the ensuing Bison drive, but a fumble on the punt return set the home side up at the Bears' 11 and quarterback Carlin Bason's 3-yard keeper sliced the lead in half at the 4:07 mark of the opening period.
A sack by Weathers – the first of his career – short-circuited another Bethany possession before Garlick completed the trifecta to Loughlin with a 19-yard strike that made it 20-7 midway through the second. Sophomore Samuel Ragland turned a short pass from Garlick into a 28-yard touchdown with just 22 ticks remaining in the half as the Bears went into the locker room with a 27-7 bulge.
The first-half statistics were staggering for an Ursinus offense that found midseason form immediately. The Bears rolled up 336 yards of total offense – 213 through the air, 123 on the ground – and 17 first downs to just 120 and 4, respectively, for the Bison. Ursinus was 7-for-8 on third downs and averaged a whopping 8.2 yards per play.
Garlick's four first-half touchdown throws already marked a career high, and Loughlin became only the sixth Ursinus player to catch three scores in a game – all in just one half.
The first two drives were the lone scoring marches in the second half, but the Bears' was a critical one. After Bethany traversed 65 yards to make it a 27-13 game early in the third quarter, Garlick led Ursinus on a clinical drive that covered 79 yards in 14 plays and took more than six minutes off the clock.
Gardner polished it off with a 3-yard TD plunge, but it was a piece of trickery that paved the way. Facing 4th-and-8 from their own 23, head coach Pete Gallagher called for a fake punt, and junior Jack Spingler – in his first game at the position – executed it to perfection with a 22-yard scamper. Garlick hit junior transfer Zach Gravelle for 10 yards on 3rd-and-10 to keep the drive alive and added a 14-yard completion to his new target before Gardner's first score of the year made it 34-13.
Garlick finished 21 of 35 for 291 yards on the afternoon, his lone blemish an interception in the second quarter. He fell one touchdown pass shy of matching the single-game school record, and helped the Bears go a remarkable 10 of 15 on third down.
Loughlin caught six of Garlick's passes for 124 yards and the three scores, becoming the first Bear with three in a game since Gary Sheffield had five touchdown receptions against Mount Ida in 2003.
Gardner posted 59 yards on 11 carries, while Ragland – the reigning CC rookie of the year – had 66 yards receiving and 46 more on the ground.
Weathers finished with eight tackles – two for loss – and a forced fumble, while Spingler tallied seven stops and a pair of pass breakups in addition to three solid punts. Senior Matt Hartigan logged his first career sack and senior captain Charles Anderson chipped in one of his own.
Senior Kirk Cherneskie was 4 for 5 on extra points in his kicking debut.
The Bears open the Centennial Conference season and their home slate with a clash against Gettysburg next Saturday.